26 July 2014, by gj
You are not as limited by your growing region as you might think.
Over the last few years we have discovered there are more plants that can be grown in a cooler region, like here in the northeast zone 5/6, than we thought possible.
1. Meyer Lemons
We purchased a grafted tree that can be grown in a pot. Lemon trees can take cold temperatures to just below freezing, and we have heard of many gardeners in the north keeping theirs in a greenhouse through the winter.
Our intention is to bring it indoors instead, as the flowers have a wonderful scent and the plant is attractive.
There are already a number of tiny lemons just this first season, and hopefully they were pollinated well enough that they will develop into lemons.
Admittedly, we used our tuning fork to help hedge that bet.
Growing similarly and close by is another grafted tree that will produce Mandolin Jones’ favorite fruit. This is also in its first season and already loaded with tiny fruit.
Like the lemon tree, this will be coming indoors for the winter.
Now in its second year, the avocado tree will be flowering later in the season.
Last year it did produce 8 fruit, all of which were accidentally knocked off in 3 separate accidents.
We have learned to be much more careful with our special trees now, particularly when moving them back indoors.
This is the second round for growing ginger from a store bought root.
You can read all about it here. The main thing we have since learned is that we prefer homegrown so much, that we are going to need at least one more pot of it to get through the year.
You’ve got to love the added benefit of never having to buy ginger again.
A relative of ginger, turmeric is grown pretty much the same way. Our roots that were covered in soil sprouted better than ones placed just on top, like the ginger root was.
It is supposed to produce a few months sooner and we are looking forward to prepping it in the same way we did the ginger.
This is the newest plant to join the array of unusual things to grow, and the one we are having the most difficult time with. Wasabi prefers to be in the shade and it requires lots of water.
That combination can easily lead to a mold issue, so we have found that it also needs air circulating about it.
Which in turn leads to a need for more water.
So yes, admittedly keeping this plant alive has been a test of our gardening dedication. Especially because at a DTM of 2 years, it will also be the plant growing the longest before it can be harvested.
Categories: gardening, How to Grow, The Experiments
22 July 2014, by gj
You’ll know your onions are ready to pick when, like garlic, they lie down. There are a few different ways to store them.
For keeping indoors in your fridge or any cool, dry place, let cure outside in the sun for a few days. Then just trim the tops and wash off any dirt, you are good to go.
2 wooden horses and an old screen is all you need
When I recently told Mandolin I had read not to store onions in the fridge, he just chuckled and shook his head.
We have been doing that for years with good success.
We freeze some of the onions that will just be used in soups or to can later in the fall in salsa. No preparation needed, just peel, chop, spread out on a foil lined sheet, freeze and store.
a sink full of onions waiting patiently
You can also to roast/dehydrate some of the fresh cut green tops. You can use a commercial dehydrator but for onions, an iron skillet will add flavor to the end product.
Very lightly oil and place on medium heat while you chop the onion tops as evenly as possible. Then place in the warm skillet and reduce the heat to the lowest setting possible. It will take a few hours until your onions are crisp to the touch. Store in any food grade container on your shelf.
Dried this way they add a mild and toasty flavor to your food, and a little color to boot.
dehydrating green onion tops
There are still plenty of onions growing in the garden, yet the sight conjures memories of a fall day not too long from now and homemade Three Onion Soup.
still plenty of onions and leeks left
No hurry though, it can wait
Categories: drying-roasting, How to Store
19 July 2014, by gj
Peas Round #2
In the southern states a fall garden means starting tomatoes and such indoors, as the fall is the best growing time for them.
To our neighbors far north, planning for the fall would involve at least low tunnels and cold frames.
This post is for everyone in between.
Succession planting, or following one plant with another, is a great way to make the most of the space you have.
At this time of year, your peas have probably started to die off. You cold weather crops are either in or beginning to bolt. And anything over-wintered is likely going to seed.
This means some space will be available for crops that can take cooler temperatures.
Here in the zone 5/6 Jones’ garden we have already sown our second crop of peas. Early maturing garlic was followed by plantings of winter squash.
Squash catching up.
In between the rows of onions, which are starting to show signs they are ready to harvest, we have direct sown seeds of cabbage for a fall crock of sauerkraut.
As the potatoes are harvested, turnips and rutabaga seeds will go in. Where the spinach bolted, more carrot seeds were planted.
These are all veggies that can take the cold; and that is the main piece of information you need to know about following one crop with another.
The other things are what ‘days to maturity‘ actually means, and when your first frost in the fall is expected.
That way you can better time what you are planting to mature in the fall or even into winter.
When we first started gardening we used to think we could only grow food from the end of May until the frost in the fall.
Now we know we can garden pretty much all year ’round.
Experience really is the best teacher.
Categories: extending the season, gardening
12 July 2014, by gj
David L. Green is a gentleman we e-met on Facebook, who has a great deal of knowledge about the pollination process. In many cases, we consider him to be a go-to expert.
On a few occasions, when a fellow gardener asked about lack of pollination on their tomato, eggplant and/or pepper plants, he advised them to use a tuning fork to help move the pollen about the flower and increase the plant’s chances of producing fruit.
What a fascinating concept.
Music is much more complex than you might think.
It has a mathematical component and also a physical side, and is part of the fiber of nature itself.
The most common tuning fork will vibrate at the same frequency as the note middle C, which is about 250 hz.
What is interesting is that this approximates the frequency of the beating of a bee’s wings.
You see, bees can help move pollen in 2 ways. First by getting it on themselves and then getting it on a female flower. This is the way a bee can help squashes for example, and the way most people think of bees helping.
The other way is the vibration caused by the beating of their wings.
In this way bees can help plants whose flowers have both male and female components, such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplants.
The vibration can help shift that pollen enough to get it on to the female reproductive part, helping it to develop fruit.
Of course this is not the only way to move pollen on these plants, the wind can help also as can other insects.
For those gardeners who live in an area where there is not a lot of breeze or bees, the tuning fork is a simple and successful solution.
Just whack it on something hard, and touch the fork to the flower’s stem.
Be the bee, so to speak.
Here’s an inexpensive one that we purchased:
Categories: gardening, plant problems, techniques
8 July 2014, by gj
This is one of the fun gardening experiments of the year, and is mostly inspired by the sheer determination to be able to grow curry.
Turmeric is a relative of ginger, and does grow pretty much the same way.
In our case it differed in that it took almost 6 weeks to sprout.
We planted some the end of April, some a few inches under the potting soil, and a few others close to the soil level; which we have learned ginger prefers.
It wasn’t until early June that any life-signs were seen.
To be honest we had all but given up on it, so perhaps the less frequent watering challenged it to grow.
Or perhaps, because turmeric actually likes water, the rhizomes we purchased were not very fresh.
From what we can see it is the more shallow-planted rhizomes that have sprouted. You can find these fresh at stores that cater to populations from India and Asian countries.
We found ours on Amazon.
If you have never used turmeric, it is was gives curried dishes, mustard and stir fried rice their yellow tint.
It is also considered to be very healthy for you.
One month later.
It takes about 8 months to grow, a little less than ginger.
So here in the northeast it is outside in the sun now, but will come back indoors when the weather starts to cool.
Like its cousin, we expect it will be a pretty houseplant.
That is until we dump it for the ‘gold’ that lies below the soil.
Botanical name: Curcuma longa
Hardiness: Prefers temperatures between 70F and 90F
Height: About 3 ft.
Days to Maturity: 8 months, give or take.
Uses: Culinary, medicinal and as a dye.
Storage: Store fresh for quite a while, dehydrate and then grind into a powder as needed. Like ginger, it could probably be pickled. Follow the link to Ginger above for the recipe.
Categories: ginger, turmeric, The Experiments
5 July 2014, by gj
Luffas’ tendrils grab onto anything.
There are some plants that grow vertically so naturally, that all you need to do is have a support nearby.
Cucumbers, pole beans and peas, and luffas are wonderful examples of edible plants whose system of tendrils helps them grow up just about anything.
And then there are plants, most notably tomatoes, that are not meant to grow vertically but usually are. Prettify much every gardeners supports their tomato plants in some way, be it a stake, a cage, the Florida weave, or an overhead system.
Supporting tomatoes helps keep those soft fruits from rotting and makes them a little bit less susceptible to bugs and disease.
The stems are hearty enough to handle the weight of the fruit.
Well, in most cases that is.
We did once see a picture of a tomato so large and heavy that it snapped the stem on the plant.
But that’s the exception not the rule.
There are other vining plants like tomatoes that can be grown vertically with just a little assistance.
Sugar baby melon happily hanging.
Melons are a vining crop as are many varieties of squash, particularly the winter squash but also some summer types.
In both cases there are two main ways the gardener can help their plants grow vertically.
The first is to be sure the structure to be used can support the combined weight of the ripe fruit.
In this regard it helps if the variety you plant produces a smaller fruit.
For example, a Moon and Stars watermelon might not be as good a choice as a Sugar Baby watermelon. As the name implies, Sugar baby produces one of the smallest melons and therefore is easy to grow vertically.
The other thing a gardener can do is to help support the fruit on the vine.
Like the very large tomato mentioned above, heavy fruit can easily cause stress and damage to the vine.
By using an airy fabric such as the mesh store bought onions or oranges come in, or a sheer nylon like pantyhose are made from, the gardener can help take some of the weight off the plant and put it onto the structure.
It is important that what is used will dry easily after a rain.
Tatume squash being supported.
Simply wrap the fruit in a sling-like fashion, and tie it to the support. This not only takes the weight off the plant, it gives the fruit plenty of room to grow.
If you do not have anything to use on hand, you can buy netting type fabric inexpensively wherever fabric is sold. Remember you can keep using it year after year.
Growing whatever you can vertically is a great way to get more from the space you have, and also help protect your plants from some critters.
And that’s a gardening win-win.
Here’s a wee bit more.
Categories: gardening, techniques
3 July 2014, by gj
Early light harvest of greens while zucchini heads up vertically.
Since you are reading this you are probably already a gardener, congrats!
Perhaps you have a lot of space that you would like to optimize, or maybe you just want to get more from a smaller area.
There are gardening techniques that have been around for thousands of years that can help you do just that.
25 corn plants with bush and pole beans
Intensive gardening is a technique that incolves planting veggies close together, even in the shade of one another, to get more from the space. Of course you will need to be diligent so as to not have disease issues, and to be sure all plants have the water and nutrients they need.
Succession planting allows you to replenish then refill up spaces as they open.
So you have pulled those early planted carrots, how much time do you have for another crop?
Growing vertically, from the typical peas and beans to the more unusual squash and melons adds even more bounty in the same space.
Keeping plants warm in early spring.
When you utilize season extenders like those pictured above, you can increase the quantity you harvest by as much as 50% here in the zone 5/6 area. The actual amount depends on your climate.
That’s a lot.
These pics are of the test model of a garden system we designed primarily for those in suburban areas, but with everyone in mind.
After 3 years of testing we found we can pretty much double our harvest by using the techniques mentioned above, as well as the built in critter protection.
10 tomato plants with basil below.
Now we don’t want to be a commercial on our blog.
If you would like to learn more, click here.
In the meantime, know that however much space you have, there are fun and really easy ways to make the most of that.
More veggies? Yeah…
You Can Grow That! is a collaborative effort by gardeners around the world who want to help everyone enjoy growing.
For more posts on other gardening topics, just click on the logo above.
Categories: gardening, techniques, you can grow that
29 June 2014, by gj
Looks innocent enough.
A relative of tomatoes and even more closely to husk cherries, tomatillos are easy enough to grow. Some gardeners have expressed difficulties with pollination, so here are 2 things it helps to know:
1. Although they have both male and female parts on the same flower, they do not self-pollinate well. Which means:
2. Just because you get a husk, it doesn’t mean you’ll get a fruit.
For tomatillos it is best to start the seeds indoors about 4 weeks before the last expected frost, and transplant to the garden about 2 weeks after the last spring frost.
You will need to plant at least 2 because of the pollination issue, and let them intermingle well.
If you live in a hot region, natural pollination will be more difficult.
So if you find you are getting nothing but husks, or if you want to insure fruit, you would be better to hand pollinate some by using a small paintbrush to move pollen from one plant to another.
2 plants 6 weeks after transplanting
If you are still not getting fruit, trying picking a flower from one plant and gently rubbing it inside the flower of another.
Using these methods, we are just now starting to get husks that have a small fruit inside, so we will probably back off for a while to see if they will produce on their own.
See the shape of the little fruit?
As we understand it, tomatillos can be quite prolific as long as that pollen gets moved.
Botanical Name: Physalis ixocarpa
Spacing: 3 ft.
Hardiness: Almost everywhere there is sufficient time.
Days to maturity: About 2 months after transplanting.
Harvest: When the husks break open.
Yield: With good pollination, 2 plants will give enough to enjoy fresh and preserve or share.
Storage: 4 weeks fresh in the fridge, or can. Especially good as Salsa Verde.
28 June 2014, by gj
Yellow and Green Snow Peas
Here in northern USA we consider ourselves lucky that we have two pea growing seasons, plenty of time to plant both in early spring and again in late summer.
Which kind of pea(s) any gardener plants is a matter of preference, but the different types are often confused with one another:
1. Snow Peas
Known for their curved appearance, snow peas are best harvested when they are young. You cannot pick a snow pea too small, if you can see it you can eat it pod and all; and right off the vine, for that matter.
Most snow peas suffer in their texture if they become over ripe. They make for better eating, less ‘woody’ as my husband says, when picked small before the seeds inside begin to develop.
2. Snap or Sugar Snap Peas
Snap peas are similar in appearance to snow peas when they are young and are often confused for snow peas. In this case you want to actually let the pea seeds inside develop before you harvest. ‘Snap’ the top part of the pod, and pull any string off that comes out in the process.
Again you can enjoy pod and all.
3. Shell Peas
Also referred to simply as Garden Peas, this is your basic green pea. The pods are harvested after they get quite plump, are opened and the seeds inside is what is enjoyed fresh or steamed. The pods of shell peas are usually more elongated and have less of a curve to them.
Here in the Jones’ garden you will find a few different colors of snow peas in the spring, and a wee bit of snap and shell peas.
By fall we are pretty much fresh pea’d out, so only will grow and harvest shell peas for preserving.
How to grow peas.
A few varieties we enjoy.
24 June 2014, by gj
Depending on your particular climate, there are many non-perennials that you need only plant once to harvest year after year.
Here in Zone 5/6, this is what we are working on:
These are biennial vegetables, meaning they produce roots and leaves the first year and flowers the next.
We overwintered our parsnips and after harvesting this spring, left a few to flower. We expect, as other gardeners have assured us, that the flowers will then turn to seed and grow more parsnips to be harvested next spring.
Cousins to parsnips, the same principle holds true. Carrots are more difficult to winter over, so we will heavily mulch just a few that will be left in the bed to see if we can pull it off. These methods are also a good way to collect seed, so if nothing else you can try that.
3. New Zealand Spinach
Not a true spinach, but one that is used the same way. This particular variety does not bolt as fast as spinach does, but when that happens it will also reseed.
We expect to see it coming up next spring as well.
4. Tomatillos and Chokecherries
Similar but not the same, these two relatives of tomatoes also will reseed and offer you many new plants for next season. We are going to cover this bed with plastic late in the winter, to help them get a faster start.
“What??” you may be thinking.
At least, that was our reaction.
But many a gardener has told us that they bring in a potted sweet pepper plant before the frost, and store it in a cool room or basement.
They say it goes into a dormancy period, and will spring back to life when the weather warms back up.
So this we had to see for ourselves, and have a beautiful Lady Bell just for that purpose.
Of course the results of all these examples, that others swear by, will be shared here with you.
Why not give some a go?
You might be pleasantly surprised.
Categories: perennials, techniques